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LAND PROBE: Jinja land file goes missing

Baguma Isoke talking to a colleague during a break as he appeared before the Land Commission.

Land probe: Key government file goes missing at Uganda Land Commission

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE |   The Chairman of the Uganda Land Commission Baguma Isoke has this afternoon told the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into land matters that a file containing lease documents for government property in Jinja has gone missing. The property in question is located on plot 60-62 Alidina Road, Jinja

Baguma on Wednesday told a seven-member commission led by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire that the file for the Jinja plot being probed is missing and nobody has knowledge about it. The matter has however yet to be reported to police.

Baguma had appeared to explain the role of the ULC in leasing out the property in Eastern Uganda in 2011, a move that has since been contested by former tenants and the Inspector General of Government (IGG).

“Someone among the interested parties must have walked into the Uganda Land Commission offices and walked away with the file,” Isoke said, adding “…the 99 years lease being referred to doesn’t exist in our records.”

Baguma had first appeared – last week  July 27 –  before the commission to respond to matters regarding this property but shared nothing in detail. He asked for more time to study the matter.

This time around, the two parties – commission of inquiry and ULC – have agreed to continue investigating the matter and resolve it in the next two weeks despite the absence of detailed information that can only be got in the file itself.

Baguma promises to cooperate

Baguma said that this matter started before he took over office as Chairman of ULC but promised to work with the commission to correct what went wrong in the process of leasing out this property. Baguma took over office on January 5, 2014 from the late Joash Mayanja Nkangi.

Going forward, Baguma said that current management have improved service delivery by restricting entry of unauthorized officials into the ULC offices in a bid to avoid losing more important files.  Every file within the custody of ULC cost not less than Shs 1 billion, according to Baguma.

According to information that is before the Wandegeya-based commission of inquiry, the said property was  leased out to one Simpson Birungi, the proprietor of Birus Property Services sometime in 2011 without following proper procedure. It is said that the property belonged to government but was being managed by key government agencies including the Privatization Unit, the ULC and Jinja Municipal Council.

Until January 16, 2015 when the building on the plot was demolished, over 200 traders had conducted business there for the last 48 years. It is alleged that Birungi connived with some government officials in the mentioned agencies to fast process the lease documents to gain ownership rights at a paltry Shs 2.5 million, far below Shs 80 million that former tenants (traders) had offered for the same property. Birungi revealed that he paid Shs 70 million as commission fee to brokers who connected him to the property.

There was no agreement reached between Birungi and the traders in the process of demolishing the building.

Jinja traders protest

Traders have since contested the demolition of the building and asked government to intervene so they get compensated for losing their merchandise during the demolition exercise.

Following the irregularities, the IGG was forced to investigate the matter in 2013 and ordered cancellation of the lease. That ruling was never respected.

Birungi has since put up a commercial building that houses 60 shops. The building is housing tenants without an occupation permit from Jinja Municipal Council.

 

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